The past 30 years have signaled a period of radical shifts in the definition of the library and its relationship to the community it serves.

These shifts in identity were essentially a survival response to external influences such as the emergence of coffee shops, growth of book stores, evolution of technology and internet, belief “the book is dead”, and funding restrictions. While painful at times, this has led to more interesting and relevant libraries. Throughout this barrage of external influences, one constant has remained: the search for the “Library of the Future.” Germaine to this pursuit has been the desire to “service the public” by providing extensive access to information and a place which welcomes all. Even more impressive has been the increase in the diversity of services, resources and types of spaces. Also library service goals and staff have evolved from a mentality as repository and guardians of information to a partnership in the user learning experience.  
 
As a result, here at QEA we have adjusted our approach in order to plan, design, and build libraries in a manner which allows each generation to provide the best way to service their unique communities now and in the future. 

 
Understanding the need to market services and service-orientation has changed every aspect of the library. This includes the nature of collections and how they are displayed and distributed. The intervention of the “marketplace”, a space that creates a bookstore feel (think similar to Barnes & Noble) and “maker spaces”, areas where visitors can learn through creation (3D printers, arts and crafts, digital production, etc.), respond to two different aspects of user needs and expectations. The marketplace is a shallower penetration of what a library offers and the maker space provides more in depth and focused exploration. Both are predicated on increased social interaction.  
 
More specifically, the rate of change in user expectations has been fueled by behavioral shifts, technology, and ease of access to information. These all have had a major influence in the evolution of library planning and design. We see these influences as the empowerment of the individual. This has authored a change in the relationship between library personnel and the community. Every single aspect of a library has been affected by this shift, but some major highlights include:  
 
  • P R I N T   C O L L E C T I O N S

  • Collection development strategy based on the concept of “just in time” instead of “just in case” in conjunction with increases in digital resources has allowed for 30% to 50% reductions in print collections. This reduction in floor area has led to either increases in other program spaces or smaller buildings.

     
  • D E F I N E D   S P A C E S

  • There has been increased demand for study and programming spaces which support group interaction, team collaboration, mentorship, and hands-on learning. These spaces typically are rich in technology.

     
  • A G E   A P P R O P R I A T E   S P A C E S

  • The design of spaces which truly fit each age group’s particular needs. This has been most evident in youth and teen spaces.

     
  • S T A F F   W O R K   E N V I R O N M E N T S

  • Service points have become smaller and designed to encourage a shared learning experience with the user. Staff work areas are more team oriented and flexible to reconfigure as staffing needs to shift.

     
  • A D A P T A B I L I T Y

  • The investment in building infrastructure to allow for interior reconfiguration without construction provides a cost effective method of adaptation. This is a key component in expanding the library’s lasting relevance.

     

     
    We are increasing the ability for users to reconfigure furniture within spaces to allow for various working scenarios. We are designing spaces that have the ability for public gathering spaces, but that also function as social interaction hubs and more active work environments. 
     
    Finally, some challenges facing future libraries is the transition from technology competency to fluency. As each generation becomes fluent in the use of technology, the need for competency based systems will decrease, and seamless integration of “MY” technology with the library will be required.